What Defines Oil Paint

Different types of artist paints could confuse the beginner in painting. What are the best paints to buy for art purposes and what are the differences between each oil paint?

Types of Oil Paint for Art Purposes

Paints are broadly divided into two types: oil-based and water-based, which are in themselves divided into broad types. Oil based paints are mixable with spirits rather than water; water-based paints are mixable with water rather than spirits. Oil paints dry by oxidization, which can take up to a month or so to dry properly; water-soluble paints dry by transpiration, which takes an hour or so. Let’s look at the different types of oil paint in more detail.

Types of Oil Based Paints

Oil based paints are ground pigment suspended in an oil medium, usually linseed. As it is oil-based, water cannot be mixed with oil paint (except for watermixable oils, described in a moment). Although oil paints can be thinned into glazes, it is thought to be an opaque paint medium, as the pigments if applied neat have sufficient covering power to conceal the paint beneath. Once dry, the oil paint forms a tough, water-resistant layer. As oils take a few days to become touch-dry, it remains workable for quite some time. Additional mediums can be used to alter the properties of oil paint: impasto medium will add body; linseed oil will add gloss and translucency. The art surface must be properly sized before oil paint is applied, as the oil will ‘sink’ into the absorbent surface causing dull patches on the painting.

Special Oil Paints

Watermixable oil paints such as Artisan uses modified oils that are able to thin with water. This takes away the need for oils and solvents for manipulating the oil paint. However, the art surface should still be properly sized. Effects just like traditional oils can be achieved by using watermixable oil paints. Mediums designed for watermixable oils can be used in the same way as traditional oils.

Artist Quality Oils and Student Quality Oils

These oils comprise fine quality traditional pigments, with high tinting strength and permanence. This makes artist quality oils a little more costly than the ‘student quality’ counterpart, known as Winton or Georgian. Some pigments are more costly than others to produce and which will be reflected in the price, divided into ‘series.’ Again, durability is categorized into grades which may comprise letters or symbols.

Hue on Paint Tubes

The word ‘hue’ on the tube indicates that a substitute has been used for the traditional ground pigment. Hue is often a synthetic substance, which can often be just as good as the traditional pigment regarding permanence and tinting strength. Traditional pigments include carmine, alizarin and most earth colors. Synthetic hues include pthalo and quinacridone.

Alkyd Paints

A fast drying art medium, alkyds such as the Griffin range are pigments ground in an alkyd medium. Although often termed alkyd oil paints, are not really oil paint at all, but an alternative for oil paints that enable the artist to apply a succession of paint glazes in a short space of time. Alkyd paints dry much faster than oils, within a day or so, and are by nature translucent for glazing purposes. Alkyd mediums can be used to alter the properties of alkyd paints, such as Liquin or Impasto medium.

Oil Bars for Artists

Oil bars comprise oil paints and wax compressed into stick form. They can be used like pastels as they can be dragged across the art surface without the use of art brushes to provide sketch-like effects. Art mediums in solid form such as the colorless oilbar enable the artist to blend colors as one could with linseed oil.

Categories of Oil Soluble Paints

Different oil paints in art shops could confound the artist on which to choose for painting. The main types are artist quality, student quality, alkyds, watersoluble oils and oil bars. Traditional oils cannot be mixed with water, although watersoluble oils have been designed for this purpose. The beginner in oils may invest in a pack of student quality oils which are cheaper in price than the artist quality, although are still high in quality. Alkyds, although not strictly oil paints can be used for fast-drying glazes, and oilbars to produce a diversity of crayon-like effects.
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